EVER BEEN TO a Melanie Concert? It's like attending the world's largest Lonely Hearts Club. You're surrounded on all sides by bleeding hearts who, with a reverence usually reserved for the martyred, pay homage to her as the perennial Flower Child, singing beautiful songs to beautiful people.
Melanie's imagery allows one to look but not touch. She's the perfect antidote to boob baring and sassy-ass soul shakin'. However, such is the warmth of her stage personality that she could set the sweatiest funkiest rock 'n' roll punk on the straight and narrow.
A Marjorie Proops1 nursing a guitar,
Melanie Safka is pop's sister-confessor, the most desired shoulder
to lean on, the epitome of just about everything good, wholesome
That's her image and she's stuck with it.
"I don't think I could blow my image", the lady admits. "Although I've never stuck myself there. It's other people who have tried to stick a label on me".
I'm quite sure it will disappoint many of her ardent devotees to learn that Melanie didn't descend upon the gossamer wings of Angels from an ivory tower for the purpose of this interview. She rode the elevator from her apartment overlooking Central Park in nasty old New York City, to indulge herself in such mortal pursuits as lunch.
Melanie Safka is a very nice young lady. As far as the music industry is concerned, perhaps she's too nice for her own good. For after toying with a giant piece of melon she shrugs her shoulders, and with a sigh offers some self-analysis.
"My trouble is I keep myself too open to things, to the extent that I am very vulnerable to most situations, but I don't allow myself to get crushed by them.
People can only take advantage of you if you want them to take advantage of you. So it's up to the person concerned just how far they are prepared to go with the victim part.
I always think that there's something of the poor victim in me", she confessed rather shyly, "and I don't think that I'll ever really outgrow that unless I find myself a good psychiatrist. However I don't take the victim part very far, so I'm not taken advantage of.
Of course, there are a few people who may think they've pulled one on me . . . well maybe they did, but it doesn't hurt me. I don't let it."
Fighting a winning battle with her melon, she keeps smiling and says: I don't think of this outlook s being cynical. To be cynical is to be bitter and I don't feel bitter.
It's just that the situation that I put myself in somehow makes me so helpless, and I suppose this comes through in some of my songs." She suggests that perhaps "The Nickel Song" and "What Have They Done To My Song Ma" are characteristic of her predicament.
But this is the entire foundation on which Melanie's appeal is built. She's one of those rare personalities who immediately brings out the protective instinct in the male. In suit of shining armour astride a white charger, one would willingly act as her champion should anyone dare to bring a tear to her smiling if sometimes mischievous eyes.
Success brings maladies, and one of the most destructive occurs when talent becomes smothered by the whole showbiz syndrome and image overshadows ability. Then the victim is forced to adopt various attitudes in defence. Melanie worries constantly about such things.
"Sometimes I think, 'my God I'm getting involved with myself'. People all around you talk about you, and you begin to think maybe there's something to think about.
And when I think about me, that's when all my defences go up.
The biggest danger is becoming isolated from everyday reality", she admits, and for the first time the smile slips from her face.
"I have a feeling towards an audience and somehow I feel that I always perform to the right audience. I don't feel isolated when I'm on stage --- the isolation comes when I'm not performing.
I suppose, I'm lonelier now that I have I have ever been. But somehow it's not too bad because I'm not too much of a social person. I guess it's just something I'm going through." But there was a hint of uncertainty in her last statement.
Apart from the perennial Flower Child tag, Melanie has also been tagged the Shirley Temple of her time, in that her fans won't allow her to grow up. But the truth is Melanie is maturing and this will be reveladed in her new album for her own Neighbourhood label.
There's one song on the album that shows where I am. While writing it, I got very upset, because things were coming out of me that I could see very clearly. And sometimes when you're capable of really going inside yourself, it can hurt . . . it really can," she emphasises.
"Clearsight can hurt, and after I had recorded the song I sat up all night 'cause it frightened me. But when I listen to it now I can understand where I was at that time."
Melanie is aware of the danger of altering one's image. That's why she feels it will be double-difficult if ever she ever decides to take up her original craft of acting.
"It's not like I'm a normal person who can get some acting experience by portraying a whore. I can't do that . . . to be quite frank with you, I'm not brave enough, if I did act, I'd have to accept parts that were close to me.
Because I'm already cast in a role, and if I placed myself in a totally different role it would be a conflict of image for me, I'm Melanie the girl who sings about beautiful people".
But then, isn't that where we came in?